Guess what? All that pollution from the cement plants in nearby Ellis County really does make a difference to Dallas and Fort Worth, despite what Smokey Joe Barton says.
Environ International, in a study to be released today, reports that "large industrial combustion sources in Ellis County" significantly contribute to ozone formation on days when the air quality poses the most health risks to residents.
Pollution blown in from Ellis County, and to a lesser extent the other counties surrounding the Metroplex, must be reduced if the region is ever going to comply with federal air-quality standards, according to the 73-page study obtained by the Star-Telegram.
A political dispute is growing increasingly contentious -- and getting national attention -- about whether to group Ellis County with Tarrant, Denton, Dallas and Collin counties in an ozone nonattainment area.
Leaders of the other four counties insist that Ellis County and its industrial pollution must be included in any clean-air plan if the region is to comply with tough new federal ozone standards that will take effect this year.
The county judges from Dallas and Collin counties will present a copy of the Environ study to Mike Leavitt, head of the federal Environmental Protection Agency, when they meet with him today in Washington, D.C. The county judges are lobbying Leavitt to include Ellis County in the regionwide nonattainment zone.
Barton, a Republican who maintains a residence in Ennis, has pressured federal and state regulators not to include Ellis County in the ozone nonattainment area. He has argued that Ellis County pollution does not significantly contribute to ozone formation in Dallas-Fort Worth.
Barton is chairman of the powerful House Energy and Commerce Committee, which has legislative oversight of the EPA. He met last week with Leavitt in an effort to persuade him to exclude Ellis County.
Ellis County Judge Chad Adams criticized the study's conclusions in an April 1 letter to the Texas Environmental Research Consortium, which paid for the Environ study.
The consortium is a nonprofit group formed in 2002 to help local policy-makers improve their understanding of the science of ozone.
Adams, whose letter is included as an appendix in the Environ study, was upset that the study's conclusions are based on computer models and analysis of high ozone days in August 1999, and do not take into account emissions reductions that he said Ellis County has made in the past few years.
"Ellis County has been aggressive in its implementation of voluntary emission controls," he wrote, adding that there are "stringent requirements" in place to reduce ozone-producing emissions from the county's cement kilns.
"I must remain in disagreement with the conclusions in the Environ study," Adams wrote.
Environ responded by including state data that show ozone-producing emissions from Ellis County's cement kilns increased between 1999 and 2002.
"These data show no downward trend for the Ellis County cement kiln emissions in recent years," the study said.